Hi friends! Today in the Celebration Series we're talking to my extraordinarily creative and just-plain-cool friend, Lisa Ryan. Lisa and I worked together when I lived in Virginia and we quickly bonded over our shared love of accents, humor and acting like weirdos in public. Back then I knew Lisa as a writer and a mother—both roles that she's exceptional at. But over the past few years, I've been so thrilled to watch her come alive through her newfound love of collage. Lisa is a feeler and a deep-thinker and I think what I admire the most about her work is that every single thing she creates has something profound to say about the world. Lisa, to me, embodies what it means to be an artist. She's unique, fiercely creative, introspective and never satisfied with the status quo. Oh, and she's stylish as hell. Let's get into the interview!
Give us a quick background on who you are and what you do for work.
I’m a Philadelphia native who ended up in Virginia after attending James Madison University and marrying some dude I met there. My degree in speech communications, poetry and religion translated to a variety of jobs until I found my groove as a writer/editor. Along the way I had two kids and developed a dependence on coffee, stand-up comedy and creative outlets. For years I studied and wrote poetry but recently discovered my love for visuals in the form of analog collage art. Now I have a studio where I hoard magazines and cover every surface with cutouts. It’s located in an old flour mill barn three minutes from my house and I share it with some other local artists—probably a few other creatures, too. I treat it like an office and try to get there as often as possible.
What about your work brings you the most joy and fulfillment?
Writing was always difficult for me—the act of creating an original idea out of nothing. With collage, I start with existing materials and edit them. I love hunting for and curating compelling images, and then physically and conceptually editing them into a new piece. It feels very much like visual poetry. I also really enjoy working with my hands, and X-acto knives are way more satisfying than keyboards.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
Dutch abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning; I recently read his biography. He came to America as a stowaway, landing in New York City right among a bunch of other starving artists pursuing what we now know as abstract expressionism. He balanced a deep talent for, understanding of and respect for artistic tradition with a passion for the present, the unknown. I fell in love with the contradiction in Woman and Bicycle the first time I saw it—he creates a chaos that’s both lovely and unsettling; the woman is familiar and dream-like. It reinforces my favorite quote of his from the book: “Nothing is positive about art except that it is a word.”
What has been difficult lately?
Summer—I’m at home with my boys, which means a dramatic cutback in studio hours. Creativity is like a muscle that can atrophy, and it chips away at my sanity when I’m not making work. When I do get to drop in for an hour or two, it takes that long to get my head back in the game. I look forward to the school year when the days are (mostly) mine again. (Lindsay here: sorry, I'm clearly posting this interview a few months after Lisa initially wrote it! Lisa, I'm hopeful that you're getting some GOOD studio time in now that school is back in session)
What makes you different from everyone else in the world and how does that uniqueness manifest itself in your work and life?
What makes me different from everyone else in the world is the fact that I’m the only Lisa Anne Ryan that I know of. The only one holding the total package of my history, my thoughts, my neurosis, my feelings. So in my work and life, you get the product from that unique recipe. Maybe that’s not what you were looking for, but I’m a natural self-deprecator. You would’ve gotten a better answer from my husband on this one.
What's the most embarrassing thing in your google search history?
“Kim Kardashian butt implants” —It ain’t real, but it is spectacular.
Love & Respect,